CHARACTERSCURA: The Hero and Moscow Never Sleeps


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Warning: SPOILERS
Sam Elliott, the go to guy to cast as a love interest for older women, has a somewhat limited acting range. His technique, generally speaking, is of him taking a stance, cocking his head a bit, and delivering a line with a twinkle his eye. And there often seems to be very little variation on this approach.
But you know what?
I don’t care. I just love seeing him on the screen. Maybe it’s his mellifluous voice that could calm a tornado (somewhat satirized here in the opening and closing as he does a voice over for a BBQ ad). Maybe it’s his sincerity. Maybe it’s just his ability to be on the screen with seemingly little effort.
I just like him.

 

The Hero is the second feature from writers Marc Basch and Brett Haley (who also directed). Previously they gave us the emotionally rich I’ll See You In My Dreams, a character study of an older woman (played sublimely by Blythe Danner) who finds her life upended by a young swimming pool cleaner and a new romance with an older gentlemen.

 

The older gentlemen was Elliott (naturellement), and out of that they created a role for him: an aging movie star who has made only one good film. When he finds out he has a relative short time to live, he wants to do one more.

 

The Hero is fairly familiar and safe. It doesn’t do anything that original. And there are times you can hear the creaking in the plot.

 

But it’s not boring and it has Elliott in it.

 

I’ll See You in My Dreams pushed the edges a bit more and the plot took some turns one wasn’t expecting.

 

But in the two movies there resides a curious double standard. In I’ll See You… the older woman and the younger man danced around having sex. The tension was there, but in the end, the romance was a bit more geriatric.

 

In I’ll See You…, Elliott’s character is given a much, much, much… much younger romance (Laura Prepon, with rather distracting eyebrows) and the filmmakers seemed to take it for granted that the two would end up in bed together and not for just a one night stand, but forever after happily.

 

The actors do their best to sell it, but it still seemed a little creepy to me.

 

The main issue with the film is the ending which I’m not sure the story has earned. It’s an ending that belongs to a character who has been nothing but self-destructive. But though Elliot’a character has made mistakes and bad choices, he doesn’t seem remotely his own worst enemy.

 

Because of this the ending seems a bit forced and not as emotionally satisfying as I would have liked it to be.

 

With Nick Offerman as the friendly neighborhood pot dealer, Katherine Ross as the wife (Elliott and Ross are married in real life) and Krysten Ritter as the ubiquitous estranged daughter.

 

Writer/director Johnny O’Reilly is an Irish native, but has been working in the Russian film industry since the new millennium. Out of this has come Moscow Never Sleeps, his second feature (the first being The Weather Station), a character study of a number of Muscovites whose lives overlap and intersect on the day Moscow celebrates City Day.

 

The film is structured like a farce, but the tone is quite serious. People constantly meet other people who are connected to other people, their stories filled with coincidences and fortunate accidents that would never convince in real life, but feel quite satisfying on screen.

 

In the film, two half-sisters who don’t get along end up with some lowlifes who earlier had kidnapped the most popular comedian in Russia who they don’t know is dying, who has a wife and mistress and whose son can’t get over his girlfriend who has left him for a wealthy, but honest, businessman who has to flee the country before his enemies have him arrested…

 

Well, you get the point. I can’t remember if it ever goes full La Ronde, the plot is a bit too complex to really remember. But the characters are rich and vibrant and the situations involving.

 

Highly recommended.

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